If you’re already planning to take a vacation in Jamaica, a major festival is a great time to visit to make it a truly unique getaway. Maybe you’re a foodie, so the Jamaica Food and Drink Festival or the more rural Clarendon Seafood Festival, might be more your thing. For those who love reggae, Sumfest is an iconic summer music festival, while another memorable reggae music festival happens at the beginning of the year, Rebel Salute, with a more roots vibe, and of course Reggae Month which takes place in February around Bob Marley’s birthday. For those looking for a week celebrating the effects of smoking weed as well as eating it and other ways to use the ganja plant, the Stepping High Festival celebrates all things cannabis, while the Tmrw.Tday Wellness Festival incorporates the benefits of marijuana together with other natural ways to be good to yourself like yoga, music and good food.
If you’re on the island for the first time and looking for where to go in Jamaica for a great place to party for singles and for couples, there are also weeklong beach parties in both Montego Bay and Negril, like Dream Weekend, probably one of the most epic summer beach party experiences you’ll ever have.
Jamaica has something for all tastes - literary festivals, film festivals, and even kite festivals. The odds are there is something for everyone, so here are the top ten festivals happening in 2019 in Jamaica.
Tmrw.Tday Culture Festival
One week of seeking the best you through food, yoga, dance and meditation all showcased in the paradise setting of the most scenic spots along Negril’s 7 mile stretch and the cliffs of the West End. Highlights include full day experiences, classes, talks with leaders in the fields of wellness and holistic health as well as organic eating and environmentally friendly practices. This is topped only by unforgettable evenings like a blowout reggae concert on the beach with some of Jamaica’s newest and hottest reggae stars and Dub Caves, where Gabre Selassie takes his famous Dub Club experience from the hills of Kingston to the cliffs of Negril for an evening hosted by music mogul Chris Blackwell at his luxurious hotel, The Caves.
When: 30th April - 5thMay
Sumfest is a musical sensation taking place in Montego Bay in Jamaica. Coined as ‘The greatest reggae show on Earth’ – we couldn’t agree more, and what a beautiful setting for it to take place. Every evening sensational themed parties lead up to a weekend of music from sun down to sun up with some of the best reggae stars from far and wide, making for a world-class line up. This truly memorable ‘bucket list’ Jamaican experience with its unique energy will transport you along with the crowd as you share this moment.
Carnival in Jamaica
Jamaica’s annual carnival rules the month of March, and a little before as many hit the gym to get that perfect body for their costume. Colourful feathers, sequins and barely there costumes and beautiful make up are only the last day, before that there are parties to attend, songs and dances to learn, drinks to be drunk and soca can be heard everywhere you go. The idea is to have fun and let go with the fervor building towards the all night mud and paint covered festivities of Jouvert and then on to ‘Pretty Mas’ the road march everyone associates most with the party atmosphere of Carnival. The pricey costumes are not a must, most parties are low cost for the entry fee and many not marching line the streets the day of the road march partying along with the revelers.
When: Feb – March
For just over 25 years now, one of the world’s best reggae music festivals takes place at Plantation Cove in St. Ann. Started by reggae icon Tony Rebel, his focus is to promote the best of the Jamaica. This is apparent in the unique tradition of Dancehall artists performing songs with ‘clean’ lyrics under their own names vs. their stage names. This family friendly music festival allows free entry to kids under the age of 12 but restricts those under 18 from entering certain areas like their mini enclosure ‘Herb Curb’ created to offer education about the uses of marijuana in various industries.
Stepping High Ganja Festival
This two day event is the first and longest running in the Caribbean. After over a decade underground with only word of mouth bringing in those interested in the farming and marketing of products derived from the marijuana plant, its status has now changed. With the medicinal marijuana industry growing larger each day and legislation changing regarding personal use, fabrics made of hemp and wider acceptance of the plant this festival is finding its place in the region. Celebrating Rastafarian culture, fashion, music and more associated with the industry it is an amazing experience that takes place every year in Negril.
Jamaica Food & Drink Festival
In late October, every foodie in Kingston and some from even farther away buy tickets to the different culinary themed nights in various locations across the capital city. No matter your budget or tastes there is something for everyone, whether it’s the food truck event at a low cover charge with a pay-as-you-nibble arrangement, distinct influenced nights like Asian Fusion or the wine paired gourmet dinner. No matter what, you’re sure to find something to make your mouth water.
Calabash International Literary Festival
One of the most respected cultural events in the Jamaican calendar, Calabash rivals the likes of Cheltenham and Bath literary festivals, and is hugely attractive for its spectacular exotic location, held in the fishing village of Treasure Beach. This promises to be a magical experience for culture lovers to indulge in the numerous fantastic talks from novelists to poets, all celebrating the English language and its great masters.
The GATFFEST Film Festival originated from the Greater August Town Film Project and was created as an outlet for graduates of the UWI Community Film Project to showcase the films that were produced during the course, or any other films that they would like to produced and would like to enter into the festival. The event screened their work along with that of other local and international independent filmmakers. Since then, the festival has grown significantly, receiving numerous international and local submissions every year serving as a platform for the exposure of film making talents of– directors, producers, casts and crews and features premieres, special events and panel discussions with stakeholders in tourism, academia and the film industry.
Mobay Jerk Festival
This family friendly showcases authentic Jamaican culinary delights within a cultural context, exploring the history of the jerk food methodology from its Taino and Maroon roots and the morphing of the Jamaican dish over the years. Set in an environment of family fun with music and other entertainment elements throughout the event.
St. Ann Kite Festival
The skies over St. Ann are filled with colour at this family friendly festival. Spend the day enjoying the display of kites of all shapes and sizes soaring through the air amidst magnificent colours. A live music concert is on at the day’s end just as the sun goes down in order for the entire family to enjoy it after a day of dancing, competitions , good food and a lot of laughter. As of 2018, the annual kite festival moves to Grizzly’s Plantation, home of Rebel Salute.
For other festivals throughout the year, check the Event Calendar on www.jamaicaexperiences.com
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